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INDY 500 ENTRIES AT 32 WITH MANN, HUERTAS AND KARAM IN THE FIELD
Author: Mark W. Theisen
#63 Susan G Komen IndyCar - Pippa Mann(driver) Dale Coyne (Owner) - Photo by Brady Whitesel
#63 Susan G Komen IndyCar - Pippa Mann(driver) Dale Coyne (Owner) - Photo by Brady Whitesel
May 4th 2014 -
WEST BEND, WISCONSIN May 4, 2014:     With practice for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 set to begin in earnest on Monday May 12th the field grew to 32 this week with the entries of Pippa Mann, Carlos Huertas and 2013 Indy Lights champion Sage Karam and is now just one short of reaching the coveted 33 entries for the May 25th race.

     The entries of Mann and Huertas come out of the Dale Coyne Racing stable and that group will field a total of 3 cars for the race with the team’s regular driver Justin Wilson leading the three pronged attack.

     The entry of Mann, the first woman to be named to a car this year, will carry the colors of Susan G. Komen, the nation’s largest breast cancer organization.  Mann’s, helmet and firesuit will be pink, and pledges will be taken based on how many laps she turns this month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of May.

     The partnership with the Komen organization actually began last year when she changed her red helmet to pink last year to support breast cancer awareness and the effort has blossomed into a significant fund raiser for this very important cause.  

     "My Indianapolis 500 is no longer about me,” said Mann when the program was announced this past Thursday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  "I won’t just be racing for myself in the upcoming 500 it is an honor to be associated with this organization.

     The pledge website can be found at www.RaceWithPippa.com.

     This year will be Mann’s third Indy 500, she finished 30th last year for Coyne and 20th in 2011 for Conquest Racing.

     Brandon Frye will engineer the program and the pair who worked together in 2011 are eager to resume the association that worked well in 2011.

     In a personal note, Imavex, the parent company of this website, worked closely with Mann over the last few weeks to build and launch the pledge site (www.RaceWithPippa.com) and will be an associate sponsor on the car, the first time they have be involved in sponsorship at the 500, truly a great day for the company.

     Huertas, a 22 year old Colombian will drive the third Coyne entry after thinking he would only be used by the team on road and street courses.  After respectable outings in his races thus far in 2014 the team has decided to give the promising rookie a shot at the big race and he is eager to begin his learning curve at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

     After so many "if’s”, "when’s” and "how’s” the deal to put Karam in a 500 entry was confirmed this past Tuesday.  Karam will drive a Dallara Chevrolet which will be formed out of a partnership of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Kingdom Racing.

     Karam, a high school senior in Nazareth, PA, had signed a driver development contract with Ganassi and the later has spent weeks trying to put together some sort of deal for the 500 only to have each and every effort squelched at some point or another along the way until the trio of organizations found a way and money to make it happen.  Karam, like all the other rookies this year, has to face the Rookie Orientation program set to commence on Sunday May 11th.

     This leaves the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with one spot to fill and the time is running out.  There are certainly enough drivers available:  Stefan Wilson, Conor Daly, Buddy Rice and Jacques Lazier it is a question of where can a car and money be found to fund the car at this late date.  

     Behind the scenes negotiations are, I’m sure, going on as this is written in hopes of making the "coveted” 33 a reality.

     Kurt Busch and Andretti Autosport announced the sponsor for his 500 effort his past Monday with Suretone Entertainment being the primary backer of the #26 car.

     After the announcement Busch headed right out on the track to begin, what will surely be a frantic month as he attempts to become the first driver to compete in the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day.

     Busch was joined on the track on Monday by Jacques Villeneuve, the 1995 winner of the Indy 500, returned after nearly a 20 year absence.  Both drivers logged many lap with Busch’s 220.844 the tops as he once again completed all the steps of the rookie orientation program after doing so last May.

     Both drivers alluded to the fact that it takes practice and preparation, and that they have to build upon their daily results.  For Busch, that is doubly hard, in that he must also work his NASCAR Sprint Cup career around the 500 and to that end he will log thousands of air miles and track miles to accomplish the feat that only John Andretti, Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon have been able to pull off.  All eyes will be on Busch this month in his quest to fulfill his dream.

Grand Prix notes:

     The inaugural running of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis is set for this coming Saturday May 10th at 3:40 P.M. and to that extent drivers were allowed on the track for a practice session on Wednesday of this week and everyone came away pleased with the changes that were made during the off season to improve competitiveness on the track.

     Sebastien Bourdais, who was a critic of the changes, altered his opinion of the track after his run.  "Like very race driver, I thought I had my reservations,” said Bourdais, "the corners looked like they were pretty tight, but the grip is really, really high now.  It went from a super-slick asphalt to very, very grippy asphalt and that more than makes up for it.  It will be a great race.”

     Those high marks were echoed up and down pit road from all the participants in the practice.  25 entries for the race have been received with Will Power, the current Verizon IndyCar point leader the early favorite.

     The race will feature a standing start, new to Indy, but not to the circuit.  After the parade laps the car will come to a stop at the start/finish line and then the green flag will drop.  That should be one interesting start to a race at Indy.

Stadium Super Track Series:

     A 20 minutes race for the Stadium Super Truck Series that features Robby Gordon has been announced for Carb Day, May 23rd but where the trucks will run and the time of day are to be announced.

Vintage Car Show:

     Fans in attendance for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis are reminded to take a look at the Vintage car display that will be one the grounds for the 3rd straight year.  The "Concour’s” type exhibit will feature some of the finest cars from around the world including entries from Bobby Rahal and Ray Everham.  The event will be judged by a group of automotive enthusiasts led by four time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Sr.